Thursday, December 30, 2010

Manila Bay - Philadelphia, PA

Here it is on the eve before New Year's Eve, and what better to do with tomorrow being a federal holiday than head out for a little Filipino cuisine at what I consider the best Filipino restaurant on the East Coast, Manila Bay. We loaded up the car, and headed over to Northeast Philly to get our grub on.

We arrived at Manila Bay about 45 minutes later, only to find the restaurant empty. We were greeted by the owner and our waiter, Caroline, and grabbed a table near the bar. They are always so nice in here, and tonight was no different. I was actually a bit dumbfounded as to why nobody was in here, but then I also realized that it was barely 6PM.  DUH!

Zelda ended up starting off with the Spring Rolls, and I went with the Filipino staple, Lumpia Shanghai! I grew up eating lumpia, and as much as I love to make my own, I have to say that these are better than anything I can make at home. Unfortunately, I have no idea why, as I am sure that I use the same elements as they do. Zelda enjoyed her vegetable spring rolls also, but I didn't get them a try for whatever reason. Both appetizers were huge, and I probably shouldn't have eaten the entire of lumpia by myself, but I did! They were that good!

For entrees tonight, Zelda went the salmon route, and she has yet to be disappointed with a salmon dish at Manila Bay. If I remember correctly, she ordered the Grilled Salmon Medallions, which came out as more salmon than she could possibly eat in one sitting, with a nicely flavored garlic sauce!  The true beauty of this dish, or any grilled item at Manila Bay is the flavor from their grill. The grill is seasoned as perfectly as you could ever believe, and it puts off the best flavors. It just doesn't get any better to me!

For me, 2011 brings eating healthy, so I had to get my grub on tonight, and order a lot! That said, I ordered 2 different entrees, both Filipino staples!

First, I ordered the Tilapia! This is a whole tilapia, cleaned and gutted, then friend whole and served with a vinaigrette sauce on the side. I can't tell you how many times my mother made this as a child, but it was delicious! There is no fork needed for this, and true Filipino's just dig in with their hands. The flavors were awesome, and you can tell that this is fried in good, clean oil! As always, the best flavors came from the cheek meat, as well as the belly meat. This was no different tonight, and absolutely awesome!

I also ordered the pork inihaw, which was spectacular the last time I ordered it here! Tonight was no different, and the great flavor truly comes from the grill! Like Zelda's entrée, the grill puts so much flavor into your dish, and is perfectly seasoned! This was cooked nicely, the sauce was tasty, and it is just damn good! The pork is thinly sliced, and seems to be marinated for a long time as it has nice flavors! Maybe not though!In short, the flavors rocked, and I wish I could eat this once a week!

Once again we were too full for dessert, and once again our bellies left extremely happy! In short, Manila Bay is such a great restaurant, and the owners really know how to make you feel welcomed, and like family! I've'said it once, and I'll say it again: this is the best Filipino restaurant I've found on the east coast! The flavors are awesome, and it's just like eating back home in my mom's kitchen! Kudos to the Manila Bay team!  Cheers!

Manila Bay
6724 Castor Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19149
Phone: (215) 722-7877

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2008 Maremmalta Micante Maremma Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Maremma, Maremma Toscana IGT)

For what this wine costs, it is again another good QPR.  Nice bright red, young color in the glass.  Reminds me of some bright young pinot I’ve had based on the color.  On the nose, this wine screams sangiovese, but I have no idea for sure what is actually in here as I don’t have my speck sheet in front of me.  It also doesn’t say on the bottle.

Super young Tuscan, with a nice nose of strawberry, red currants, spice, and sweet red fruits.  From the nose, I am guessing there is either some merlot or cabernet in the blend, but again, I have no idea, and no idea how much.

On the palate, this is simple and drinking nicely.  This makes a nice house red with subtle tannins.  More strawberry on the palate, and a nice little rich sweetness to it.  A bit of cherry on the palate, and just a berry medley to round it out.  The finish is short and sweet, and for what this wine is, it makes for a perfect house red, and a great nightly sipper.  Great QPR, and I am sure we’ll drink more of this in the future.  Cheers!

West Side Gravy - Collingswood, NJ

With the big news that West Side Gravy would be closing afte the 1st of the year from renovations, we figured we had best get down there today to get our fix before the restaurant closes for a few weeks!

For those of you who don't know, Chef Alex Capasso announced that Blackbird, his first venture, will be moving to the West Side Gravy location on the main drag in Collingswood!  But wait, there's more!  Not only will Blackbird be in this location, West Side Gravy is also going to be in this location as well.  Two of my favorite restaurants, with two incredible chefs in Chef Alex Capasso and Chef Siobhan Allgood in one restaurant, sharing one kitchen!  Stay tuned for greatness!

So today we walked in and were greated by our server Janine.  She was super friendly when she greated us, and said that she was happy to finally meet us.  I looked as Zelda and we were both thinking, "who is this woman?"  LOL!  Turns out Janine is one of our friends on Facebook, and we just didn't recognize because she doesn't have her picture on her profile.  Regardless, it is great to finally meet you Janine.

We were given the run of the place, and picked the same table in the back that we always like to sit at for lunch.  For whatever reason, we pick a table in the window for dinner, but lunches are for sitting in the back.  I think it's because of all the sun during the day maybe.

We perused the menu, and one of the specials today was the fresh mozz!  This is always so good, and a must have!  The cheese is brilliant, and the breading is fried up golden brown, and absolutely delicious.  I don't think that you can fry anything better than this.  This is then served with a delicious tomato sauce, and garnished with a little pasta.  As always, this was delicious.  This was not the first time we've ordered this dish, and it definitely will no be the last time that we order this dish.  This is fried mozzarella on steroids baby!  Good good stuff!

For entrees today, I went with my gut and ordered the slider trio.  I was picturing this in my head this morning when I woke up.  I definitely had this on the brain, and we made it happen today!  This trio had a slight twist to the last one I had, and I have to find my notes to see exactly what these were.  OOPS!  It's been a couple days too long, and I can't remember off the top of my head.  Nobody said that getting old was easy!  Yikes!

Thankfully, Zelda was craving Mac and Cheese, and West Side Gravy has one of my favorites.  From the many different cheeses to the fresh herbs, this is great.  The buttery bread crumbs are just an added bonus!

All in all, what is there to say about awesome!  From the service, to the HUGE changes coming at West Side Gravy and Blackbird, these restaurants keeps us coming back.  To Chef Capasso, Chef Allgood, Adam, Amy, Janine, and the rest of "Team Capasso," kudos to you guys!  Keep up the great work!

And readers, stay tuned!  Tis is not the last you will hear of West Side Gravy in 2010.  Between you and I, you just may see this restaurant on our 2010 Top Ten!  Hint hint!  Cheers!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Coltello Ristorante - Crosswicks, NJ

Huge thanks to Dominick, Richard, and the rest of the gang at Coltello in Crosswicks!

Tonight, they were kind enough to host te 514th Logistics Readiness Flight - McGuire Air Force Base, NJ Holiday Party, and as always, they did an amazing job!

The restaurant looked gorgeous, the food was amazing as always, and the price could not have been any better!  Special thanks to the Conti family for their support of the United States Air Force!  We couldn't have had a better evening, and everything was amazing!  Stay tuned for the full to come!


460 Main Street
Crosswicks, NJ 08515
Phone: (609)298-6128

Monday, December 13, 2010

2000 Bodegas Navalon Valdepeñas Anciano Gran Reserva (Spain, Castilla-La Mancha, Valdepeñas)

Well, here it is a Monday night, and what better to drink a Tempranillo with than some homemade fajitas?  OK, I can think of plenty of other things, but we'll give this one a shot anyway. Popped and poured this tonight and poured into a Riedel XL glass where it decanted for about a half hour. Nice red color in the glass. 

The nose was not what I expected in the least, and I was really waiting for a sweet vanilla nose, crossed with some serious wood.  Not oak, I am talking straight wood, 2x4, but that was not the case at all.  Instead, I got a nice nose of dark black cherry, strawberry, and spice.  There is a bit of cedar on the nose as well, and maybe a touch of blueberry and smoked paprika.  Definitely a good nose, and surpisingly, the nose smells very young. 

My question in regards to that is, do they age this wine in the barrel for 10 years?  Or is it in the barrel for 5 years, and then in the bottle for 5 years?  UPDATE:  according to one of our know it all readers, this wine is aged 3 years in oak, then another 2 years in the bottle for a total of 5 years.  Somehow, this does not add up to 10 years, so please know it all reader, explain your math to all of us.  Where does that other 5 years come from?  Maybe the grapes are left on the vines for 5 years after they are ripe?  LOL! 

On the palate, this is drinking very well, and I found this to drink even better with food.  I tasted this before I took a bite of the fajitas, and I got some nice strawberry and raspberry on the palate.  This wine has a nice acidity to it, and plenty of backbone, but it is all well integrated.  The alcohol is not offensive in the least, and the tannins are there, but nice and smooth. 

For a Spanish tempranillo, this is indeed a heck of a great QPR, and there is nothing at all to be skeptical about.  To slap a $10-$15 price tag on this bottle is absolutely genius to me, and this is definitely a food friendly wine.  But I don't think it needs to be a Spanish inspired dish.  I could see drinking this with pizza on a Wednesday night, or even on a Friday or Saturday.  Or I could even drink this with burgers off the grill.  Regardless of what you want to eat with this, I think it will be a very food friendly wine.

All in all, what is there to say here other than genius?  This is a nice wine at a great price, and 88 point worthy.  We'll see if it gets any better tomorrow night.  Cheers!

Quilceda Creek Spring Release - 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Well, just as the end of the year approaches, you figure you can give the credit card a rest, and spend money on gifts for the holidays, and maybe even replenish a bit of the savings from the past year of wine buying. Then you get an e-mail like the one I received below, letting you know that January brings a new mailer season, and more wines.

This e-mail was about the 2008 Quilceda Creek cabernet sauvignon. This is always a great wine, and has garnered 100 point scores from the critics in 4 of the last 6 vintages. For us, we love this wine with 10 plus years on it, and it will age for a good 25 years. I try to buy a few of these every year, and this year will be no different. If any of the locals are looking for a few bottles, just say the word, as I only plan on taking a few.

This wine lists for $130, and magnums will be released at $286 this year. Below is the e-mail I received from them, so check it out, and be ready to place your order!

"From: <>
Date: Sat, 11 Dec 2010 07:58:55 -0800
Subject: Quilceda Creek Spring Release

Dear F. Scott Fitz,

Very shortly you will be receiving our announcement letter for the private release of the 2008 Quilceda Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley. In that letter, you will be informed of your ordering date, pricing and
shipping/pick up options. Please note that when you place your order, your Visa or Master Card will be charged at that time. 

Your login information is:
Thank you for your continued support of our wines. If you have any questions about the ordering process, you may contact us by email at or by telephone during regular business hours.
Our phone number is 1(800)877-4270.

Our warmest regards,
The Golitzin Family "

From their website:

2008 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley

Vintage Notes:
Winemakers: Paul Golitzin, Marv Crum, Alex Golitzin
Varietals: 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot
Vineyards: Champoux, Klipsun, Tapteil
Barrels: 100% New French Oak
Time in Barrel: 22 months
Bottled: August 2010

Winemaker's comments

We will be releasing the 2008 vintage of Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley to private members in January, 2011. This follows exciting news that the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was recognized as Quilceda Creek's fourth 100-point rated wine from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (Issue #190, August 2010) in the last six years. This validates the consistent, world-class quality that can be achieved from Washington State's finest vineyards. "The entire portfolio is a tour de force," the publication wrote last summer, "Quilceda Creek remains Washington's benchmark for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon."

The 2008 season began with a cool spring with bud-break delayed by about 10-14 days. The month of May presented a small heat spike followed by little precipitation. Similarly, the bloom was delayed 1-2 weeks. Entering into September, the temperatures were warm, sunny and dry allowing for even ripening of the fruit. After strict grading and selection, we were able to produce an extraordinary Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2008 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley (98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot) is a very opulent wine. With remarkable purity and focus, this wine reveals powerful blackberry, blueberry, plum and black currant fruit with nuances of chocolate, Asian spice and floral elements such as lavender and rose petal. With amazing texture, all of its components intertwine in perfect harmony. Approachable now this wine will age for 25+ years.

Also, for those on the mailing list, don't forget about this policy: Private Mailing List Policy: Any active member who is unable to purchase for a two consecutive year period (four offerings) will be removed from
the private list. Cheers! -F. Scott

PS: January usually brings mailers from Rivers-Marie, and Kistler as well! So budget wisely! Maybe I need to bring this to a new post! =)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

CoolVines - Princeton, NJ

What is there to say other than WOW, and congratulations to Mark Censits and the the CoolVines Team on their move this summer to their new and improved location down in the heart of Princeton!  Although the old store was gorgeous and quaint, their new location is absolutely gorgeous, and very well deserved.

We first discovered CoolVines when they came to Princeton at the corner of Harrison and Nassau Street, and it has been our go to wine shop locally.  Although we purchase most of our wine from mailing lists direct from wineries, we do also purchase some wines locally.  Out of all the wines shops that we do purchase from, CoolVines is at the top of our list.  Maybe not by a landslide, but to date, but since we discovered them, we have not bought more wine from anywhere else, and this still holds true.  Unfortunately, in today's economy, we aren't really buying much of all though.  Maybe this will change once the economy decides to jump back!

Today we stopped in after lunch, and saw some new, unfamiliar faces working in the store.  Owner Mark wasn't there, nor was Thomas or Daniel, who are usually the friendly faces we see in store.  Regardless, the two gentleman working were very friendly, and offered our help if we needed it.

I first visited the new location a week or two after their grand opening in October, and it is such a gorgeous store.  Their old location was very quaint, but their new location adds a bigger selection, and a new rack full of higher end wines.

But the beauty of CoolVines is that they have anything from great, low production affordable daily drinkers, to top of the line Burgundy, Italian wines, or even Cult-ish California cabernet sauvignon.  In the past, we've purchased anything from $10 summer whites, to super low production syrah such as Sine Qua Non.  The options at CoolVines are endless, and this is a great thing!

Pictured here is the new Cru selection.  This is in the far back part of the store, directly in front of you when you walk in.  In browsing this area, I have seen many of our favorite wines here, ranging from Tignanello, to Sassicaia, to Joseph Phelps Insignia, to an '06 Richebourg, to some Hermitage, ot some Gaja, Hundred Acre, etc.  If you are looking for something high end, you will have no problem whatsoever finding it here.  That said, what are you waiting for?  But again, it is not just about the high end wines.  It is also about some small production, ultra affordable bargains as well.

In this picture here, you are looking from the front window of the store towards the cash register and the tasting bar.  There are some nice bargains here as well, with anything ranging from Champagne and sparkling wines, to dessert wines, to red, whites, fortified wines, etc.  One pleasant surprise that I was happy to see Mark carrying was Kim Crawford.  Sure, there is nothing unique about this wine, and you can buy it at many wine shops, and even Walmart in some states, but this is a heck of a great wine, and a bargain as well.  Year after year this wine is solid, and this is perfect for the person who runs in real quick to grab a bottle to enjoy at MoC MoC around the corner for sushi.

These pictures here show the tasting bar and register.  You can see the nice copper counter top, that adds a really nice touch.  All the colors in the store work nicely together, and it shows a nice touch of class.

Shown here is the beer and spirits collection, and this too is a nice area.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Rogue gin here today, which has come highly recommended from gin connoisseurs Paul and Stefania Romero of Stefania Wines.  This is supposed to be a very "spruce-y" gin, and I am sure that Zelda is going to love this.  We'll see!  Also picked up a bottle of 2006 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey sauternes, and it will sit in our cellar for a decade or two until it's ready to drink.  In adding this to CellarTracker, I see that I paid a bit more than I should have for this wine, but that sort of thing happens, and you just never know.

All in all, if you find yourself in the Princeton area, CoolVines is definitely worth a stop to have a look.  They do tastings on Saturday from 2PM-5PM, and who can resist a little free tasting?  I know that I can't, and we have to make it a point to get back over there for tastings on Saturday's now that our schedules should be settling down.

In the meantime, stop in, say hello, and tell Mark and his team that we sent ya!  Cheers!

21 Spring Street
Princeton, NJ 
Phone:  (609)924-0039

Princeton Soup and Sandwich Company - Princeton, NJ

So today we had to make a run over to Whole Foods to pick up some pork and turkey loins for dinner tonight, and we ended up stopping in town for lunch.

Princeton Soup & Sandwich Company is located in Palmer Square, at the old location of the Soup Man.  I had no idea that this had even changed hands, or changed names for that matter, which is pretty sad considering we drive past here almost every day.

Upon walking in, the place looks the same for the most part.  The kitchen has changed a little bit, and they have some new stationed back there.  They still have about the same amount of soups and the seating is still very limited to about 5 stools inside if that.

I placed our order at the counter as Zelda grabbed us two stools before they were snatched up.  I ordered the Chicago style hot dog, along with a kids portion of the lobster bisque.

Let me say that if this wasn't a Vienna Beef hot dog, it was a pretty good hot dog in disguise!  It tasted very nice, and there were some very similar qualitites to a Vienna Beef dog.  Although it is inspired by a true Chicago style dog, it was however lacking a bit.

First, it wasn't served on the signature poppyseed bun.  This is a staple.  Secondly, the relish was a bit different, and it wasn't your typical "neon green" relish as usually found in Chicago.  Next, the sport peppers were a bit different, and seemed more jalapeno inspired than what I am used to back home.  Finally, the onion used was red onion.  All in all, the dog wasn't bad in the least, and it was the next best thing to a real Vienna Beef dog back home.

As for the bisque, I can say that it wasn't as good as the bisque that the Original Soup Man used to serve in this location.  While the lobster bisque was good, there were definitely differences.  For one, the soup wasn't quite as thick and creamy.  The Soup Man used to have a more creamier/buttery texture, where this seemed a little more greasy and watered down.  There also wasn't as much lobster as there used to be, but it was still decent soup.  I would buy it again, but I'd like to see it a dollar or two cheaper as there is now less meat.

Zelda ordered the Newton Dog, with a turkey hot dog, with avocado, tomatoes, and pickle.  We both thought that it was so weird to see her eating ahot dog out, as there is nowhere else that either of us can think of that has turkey dogs.  Not being a beef or pork eater, this was a first for her, and a pleasant first.  She also had a cup of the bisque as well.

We also ordered chips and a soda, and when all was said and done, the bill came to $25 and change.  Not the greatest value in the least, but not a bad value either.  I can only imagine how much their rent is, and one way or another they have got to pay it.  Definitely could be worse.  But when I am in the mood for a little taste of home, I can definitely see going back here to grab a Chicago style dog!  Cheers!

Princeton Soup and Sandwich Company
30 Palmer Square East
Princeton, NJ

Sun-Thurs: 8 am - 10 pm
Fri-Sat: 8 am - 11 pm

Phone:  609-497-0008
Fax: 609-497-0088

Tsukasa - Bordentown, NJ - from 11 DEC 2010

Tonight we had a wine tasting to attend at our good friend Dee's house, so we headed into Bordentown a bit early to grab something to eat.  The town was definitely buzzing tonight, with the Christmas Historic Homes Tour tonight.  Parking on Farnsworth Avenue was packed, so we rounded the corner and went to Tsukasa Japanese restaurant for some noodle bowls.

We walked in and there were 3 other tables seated, so as always, it was great to see some people supporting this great establishment.  As I've said before, this is a great family run place, with mom in the kitchen making the hot food, dad behind the sushi bar, and their son running the front of house.  They have been open for 2-3 years now, and it is great to see them being supported by the locals!

We both started off with a roll, Zelda going for the spicy salmon and avocado, and I went for my spicy tuna roll, which is always a staple for me.  As usual, the fish was great, fresh, and flavorful.  It had just the right amount of spice, and the texture of the rice couldn't have been better.  Fantastic as usual.

For dinner, if you want to call it that tonight, we ordered noodle bowls.  Zelda went the tempura soba route, and I went the tempura udon route.  The only difference between the two is the noodle.  She had a thick white noodle, where I had a much thinner buckwheat noodle.

On the side of our soups was a heaping helping of tempura.  We got two shrimp, onion, string beans, sweet potato, zucchini, and broccoli.  As always, the veggies were fresh, nicely breaded, and nicely fried, and this left us extremely happy.

We also met a really nice couple from Allentown, NJ, and it was nice to see that they love the sushi at Tsukasa so much, that this is the place that they like to come.  There really are quite a few places between here and Allentown that they could visit, but it says something that they frequent Tsukasa.  That is a great thing, and I hope to hear more stories like this!

It was also nice to see our friend Raphael stop in, picking up sushi for the wine tasting that we are attending tonight at Dee's house!  With that said, we actually got to eat Tsukasa twice tonight, and in both instances, are belly's were pleasantly pleased!  Great stuff!  We'll be back soon!  Cheers!

Tsukasa Japanese Restaurant
1 1/2 Crosswicks Street
Bordentown, NJ 08505
Phone:  (609) 298-3838

PS:  for vino tonight, we grabbed a simple 2009 Hogue Cellars Riesling Late Harvest (USA, Washington, Columbia Valley) tonight to save our palates for the giant reds we'll be tasting!

1994 Château Pontet-Canet (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac)

Definitely a different wine that the Leoville Barton that we had before this, but would have been a great representation in the difference between St. Julien and Pauillac had the vintages been identical.  This however showed that I think the '90 Bordeaux are drinking far superior than the '94's like this one.

Decanted for sediment, and this didn't show as dark in the decanter as the Leoville.  The nose on this wine was a bit more floral than the previous, with some hints of lavendar.  On the fruit side, some nice cherry, currants, cigar box, cassis, spice, and wet slate.

On the palate, this was a bit sour at first, with some sour plum, black cherry, and ripe currants.  No idea what the final blend was here, but you could really tell there was a good amount of merlot in this wine.  Not a bad thing in the least!

Nice tannins, and a lingering finish made this really nice to drink.  This wine is still very youthful, and has plenty of years left in front of it.  Huge thanks to Dee for opening up some of these fun wines tonight!  92 points!  Cheers!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

1990 Château Léoville Barton (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien)

Leave it to Dee to bust out some mature Bordeaux that she always says is over the hill, and that she is always so nervous about opening.  LOL!  You gotta love her, and as always, she was again proved wrong here!

Decanted for sediment, showing a gorgeous dark color in the decanter.  Gorgeous nose of dark currants, cassis, cherry, tobacco, and spice. There was just a bit of bret on the nose, but this blew off with a few minutes of swirling in the glass.

On the palate, this was some great classically aged Bordeaux.  I wish I had a cellar full of stuff like this, as it is drinking so well.  Very nice, mature palate with a bit of prune, plum, blackberry, and black cherry.

Nice lingering finish made this an absolute joy to drink, and this was definitely up there as a wine of the night contender.  Very nice after drinking a bunch of new world pinot noir tonight.  93 points!  Cheers!

2006 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir Southing (USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills - Sta. Rita Hills)

Decanted for about 2 hours in the bottle before pouring my first taste.  Great Santa Rita Hills nose, with black cherry and oak, with some raspberry, strawberry and spice.  A bit of earthiness on this as well, but gorgeous. 

On the palate, this wine still needs some time to integrate I think, but it could also be the vintage.  As I've said in the past, I haven't been a big fan of '06 pinot noir compared to prior to vintages.  Regardless, some nice fruit of dark cherry, raspberry, vanilla, and even some green tea. 

By the end of the bottle, this was starting to strut it's stuff, and this was starting to develop into the Sea Smoke that I really love.  Next time this needs a good splash decant for 4-6 hours.  90 points.

2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast)

"Decanted' in the bottle for about two hours before consuming, this was really closed down at first.  Even so, the gang really loved this wine, and Kosta Browne is always a crowd pleaser within our local tasting group.

First thing I noticed on the nose was the alcohol, which I didn't remember when we had this wine 11 months ago.  Black cherry, cola, and spice on the nose, with some strawberry and raspberry as well.  The alcohol is starting to blow off. 

On the palate, more subdued than the KB's that I love, and not as sweet.  More black cherry and cola, with some other red fruits.  By the time I was down to my last quarter of a glass, this transformed into the KB that I love and was absolutely delicious.  Stll not sure what to make of these '06's.  I think they might need more time.  90 points. 

1999 Sanford Chardonnay (USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County)

An absolute gem found deep in the cellar many years ago, and it hasn't gotten a chance to be opened until tonight at Dee's annual holiday tasting.  Popped and poured at fridge temperature, showing a dark yellow color of a well aged chardonnay.

A nice tropical nose, some citrus, honey, pineapple, and buttery caramel.  On the palate, this could have passed for white Burgundy.  What?  Seriously?  Yes!  Could have also passed for an Aubert chardonnay from '05-'07.

Plenty of nice acidity and minerality on the palate still, with some nice apricot, pineapple, and orange peel.  Soft supple finish showed a classy wine, nicely aged, and drinking beautifully.  Definitely on the downslope, but surprised this has help up as long as it has.  Good provenance is a beautil thing!  90 points!  Cheers!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2008 Ventisquero Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva

Popped and poured through the Vinturi, then through another funnel and into a decanter.  I then poured the wine back into the bottle, and then did this process all over again.  From here, it sat in the decanter for about a half hour, and then in a Riedel XL glass for another half hour.

After an hour decant, this nose has some serious funk on it.  Lots of vegetal and herbal notes on it, with some green pepper that had me wondering about this wine.  Was this a bad bottle perhaps, or was this going to blow off?  Definitely some alcohol on the nose.

By hour three, the funk has blown off, and the nose reveals some nice smoke and oak.  The alcohol is still there a bit, but has also blown off a bit.  On the fruit front, raspberry and black cherry dominate the nose, rounded out by some creaminess from the oak.

On the palate, this wine is obviously young, and perhaps a little out of balance, but as this wine opens up, it becomes more and more balanced.  Some more of that raspberry on the palate, along with some cherry and pomegranate.  Hints of mocha round out the palate, with a short finish that shows the youth of this wine.  The tannins are still a bit grippy, with just some alcohol on the finish as well.  I poured the remaining half of the bottle into a half bottle, and put this in the cellar overnight to revisit in the morning.

So at the end of day one, I think that for the price of this wine, there is all the potential in the world.  I can only imagine that this is going to get better overnight, allowing the elements to integrate, and becoming a more complex wine.  To me, at this price, this is a no brainer, and a heck of a great QPR.  For the restaurant that wants to put this on their wine list, this is a great food wine, and I’d serve it with any kind of hearty, meaty dishes.  End of day 1:  86 points.  Stay tuned for notes on day 2!  Cheers!

On day two, all the hard edges on this wine came off, the alcohol integrated some, but was still a bit present, but not overwhelming in the least.  The tannins have integrated a little bit, but are still there.  All in all, again, this is another good QPR, and gained another point or two overnight.  Again, this is a great wine by the glass for a restaurant, or a great drinker for a weekday!  Keep an eye out for this one, because if I have it my way, this entire line will be all over restaurants in New Jersey!  Cheers!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dish - A Restaurant - Red Bank, NJ

Met one of my good pal's from back home, John Rueff here since he was in town and doing some work in Long Branch.  With its proximity to Red Bank, Dish was the perfect option tonight, so I called earlier in the day and left a message on their machine for a reservation.  I then saw their e-mail address on their site, so I e-mailed them and got a reply back, so we were good to go.

Got into Red Bank and there was some serious hustle and bustle on Friday night.  Parking was a bit tough, and I ended up parking a few blocks down the road across the street from Tiffany's.  Not a bad walk in the least, even on a cold December night!

John was standing outside as I walked up, and we said hello, and went inside.  We were immediately greeted and sat at our table.  We had a nice little two top next to a pillar, with another two top next to us.  At this point, the restaurant was pretty full, and had a nice little buzz to it. The place looked nice and vibrant!  From the red color of the walls on the exterior, to the fresh yellow walls inside, with the blonde floors and tables.  The place really was cozy.

I reached into the wine bag and ask John if he preferred pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon, and he called for a cabernet.  That said, out came a 2003 Stag's Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon.  Stay tuned for a review of that soon as well. 

Our waitress came over and opened the wine.  I have to say that the stems at Dish are OK at best, and I will remember to bring our own on a return visit.  She went over the specials with us, and gave us a few minutes to peruse the menu.  Meanwhile, we shot the bull and caught up on old times.  So many funny memories!

For starters, John had the Cream of Squash soup, and I ended up ordering the calamari.  I know, it's calamari, but it sounded good tonight, and it was indeed tasty.  The rings were huge, as were the tentacles.  Fried golden, brown, and delicious.  John said his soup was absolutely amazing as well.

For entrees, I ended up going the short ribs route, and these were a rockin'!  The portion was absolutely massive, with two giant chunks of meat, served over a maple mashed sweet potato, and some haricot verts and carrots.  The short ribs were absolutely awesome, flavorful, and fork tender!  I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of these to show just how massive the dish was, but the two were stacked on top of each other and almost as tall as my wine glass. WOO!  These were a hit.

John opted for the rib eye special, and he said it was cooked perfectly, and absolutely flavorful.  I can't remember what this was served with, but it looked delicious.  It may have been topped with a Roquefort or something else, but again, I can't remember for sure.  Seeing how good his steak looked however, I would be hard pressed not to order the NY Strip of Hanger Steak on my next visit! 

From what I read on Chowhound, we absolutely cannot leave without having dessert.  UGH! At this point, I am absolutely stuffed like a pig, and no hungry in the least, but when our server read off the special and I heard bread pudding, how could I resist?  It's a favorite of mine, and a staple!

The bread pudding came out, and this too was massive!  This had a side of whipped cream, and some caramel and chocolate syrup on it.  All I can say is wow!  This rocked, and had great consistency.  It almost reminded me of a croissant, so maybe they use croissants in here?  I have no idea, but wow, it rocked!

All in all, this is a great little restaurant with a lot of charm, and a great place to bring my wife on a date.  It's cozy, intimate, and has great food, great service, and some outstanding desserts!  Maybe next time they'll have the coconut cake that I hear is a must try!  I hope so!  Huge kudos to Dish though!  We'll definitely be back in the future!  Cheers!

Dish - A Restaurant
13 White Street
Red Bank, NJ 
Phone:  (732)345-7070

2003 Stags' Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Popped and poured with John Rueff tonight at Dish in Red Bank.  Gorgeous dark garnet color in the glass.  The nose was a bit subdued, but had everthing to do with the stems at Dish.  Some black currants, black cherry, boysenberry, spice and just a hint of soy. 

On the palate, tons of of dark fruits.  More black cherry, jammy raspberry and blackberry that were perfectly ripe, and not overly ripe in the least.  Tannins were nicely integrated, and there was no alcohol whatsover.  This can probably get better with time, but why wait?  This is drinking nicely right now.  Quite a bit of sediment in the final pour, but no worries.  Maybe decant for sediment if you have one.  Overall, a great wine that paired nicely with short ribs!  91 points!  Cheers!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nomad Pizza - Hopewell, NJ

I’ve been reading about all the hype at Nomad pizza for years now, and tonight seemed as good as any to go check it out!  That said we loaded up the wine bag with stems and wine, and trekked on over to Hopewell to see for ourselves.
From everything that I have read on Chowhound, Nomad turns their tables very fast, but there can be waits to up to an hour.  Fortunately for us, we found a parking spot right in front on the street, and we walked in and grabbed the last 2 top that was open.  We had arrived around 6:45PM, and the rest of the restaurant was jam packed.  They definitely pack them in!
As you walk in the restaurant, the first thing you notice is the giant brick oven in the back left hand corner of the restaurant.  Prior to that, they have their prep line, where there were 4-6 people working, and this overlooks the dining room.  Right in front of this is a giant, long table, where it seems that they seat people, one next to another.  We were seated on the right hand side of the restaurant, where it looks as though the doors open during the nice weather months to the outside.  I can only imagine this being very nice on an evening with gorgeous weather.  There were also a couple tables at either end of the restaurant. 
Another element that I think adds to the interior is the tongue and groove, white ceiling in the restaurant.  This looks nice, and gives the place a clean, finished look.  But at the end of the day, what is important here is the large brick oven!  ;-)  After all, this is what continues to make Nomad a thriving success!
I grabbed our wine glasses, as well as a ½ bottle that I had poured last night’s remnants of a 2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen vineyard into before I put it in the fridge over night.  If you’re wondering why I pour it into a half bottle, it is because this takes away the air space, and in my opinion, keeps the wine better overnight.  I also grabbed a bottle of 2007 Roots Run Deep Winery Cabernet Sauvignon “Educated Guess.”  There is a lot of debate on this wine right now on Wine Berserkers at:  , so I really wanted to see for ourselves.  Check out the review below in the next day or so!
Our server came over, and I think his name was Bill.  He ran through the 3 additions to the menu tonight, and also let us know that there was no clam pie on the menu tonight.  Meanwhile, one of the bus girls came over and brought us a chilled bottle of water and two glasses.  This was actually a very nice tough, as it is a blue/aqua colored bottle, and kind of that old school bottle with the plastic cap that you can snap shut.  I am assuming that afterwards, they wash these and refill them, but it adds a nice little element of sophistication, and also places some nice color on the table around the restaurant.  Our server also asked if we had been here before, and we said that we had not.
He then explained that the pies were 12 inches, and what a lot of people do is order a salad to split, and then a pie to split.  He did however tell us that eating an entire pie by yourself is very possible.  Come on, 12 inches?  Seems like I could polish that off with no problem right?  Well, we’ll see!  So he took our order, and I kid you not, it couldn’t have been more than 4 minutes and our pies came to the table bubbling hot out of the brick oven.  How is this possible?
Well, it is entirely possible as Nomad keeps their brick oven at temperatures from 750 to 1000 degrees, letting each pizza cook to perfection in less than 2 minutes.  The oven is fueled by wood, and they use only cherry or apple.  As you can see from the pictures, these pies are gorgeous.  The bubbly crust is cooked very nicely, and has a good airiness to it.  In just a few places, the heat has given it a nice char, but overall it is a great crust!  This is definitely different from your normal pie, and this is some of the best brick oven crust around.  Much better than any of the chains that boast their brick oven.
Both our pies were cooked nicely, with a good crunchy crust, yet the inner crust was soft and chewy.  Nomad definitely has taken the time to perfect their crust over the years, and it shows.  They make their dough in small batches, and let it rise overnight for a full 24 hours before serving.
The toppings were also nice, and the sauce was flavorful, while not overpowering the nice flavors of the crust.  Zelda’s ordered the Margherita, which had the San Marzano tomato inspired sauce, fresh mozzarella, aged parmesan cheese, fresh organic basil, organic olive oil, and salt.  She said that the flavors were nice, and I am sure that they were similar to mine.

I opted for the spicy sausage, which had the same San Marzano sauce, fresh mozz, and parm!  It was then kicked up a notch topped with “Simply Grazin’ Sausage, caramelized onion, and then the same organic basil and olive oil, and sea salt.  The sausage had some great spice and flavor, and not in a hot way by any means.  It was just good and flavorful, and the caramelized onions added to the deliciousness!  All in all, great brick oven pies!
Nomad also boasts their truck, and this is what made Nomad famous from what I understand!  The truck, a restored ’49 REO Speedwagon,  is the full operation in one.  It has the wood fired brick oven, refrigerator, sinks, hot water heater, generator, awning, lights, tables, etc all in one, and you can actually rent this to come to your events.  This truck can also be found in Princeton on weekend nights, sometimes parked in front of your local bar or establishment!  Needless to say, it is gorgeous!  The attached picture was actually taken from Nomad’s website, and we do not claim that this picture belongs to us or our website.  It was purely borrowed for dramatic effect! ;-)

So at the end of the day, Nomad makes a heck of a great pie, and we’ll be back in the future!  Cheese!  I mean, CHEERS!
Nomad Pizza
10 East Broad Street
Hopewell, NJ 
Phone:  (609)466-6623

2007 Roots Run Deep Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Educated Guess (USA, California, Napa Valley)

Popped and poured this at Nomad Pizza tonight, after finishing off the last of a third of a bottle of ’06 Kosta Browne pinot noir Koplen Vineyard.  Popped and poured, full knowing that this was not going be finished, also knowing that I could throw a vacuum on it overnight, and put it back into the cellar to get some air.  This had a nice ruby/purple color in the glass.

I did a quick rinse on my glass with some table water and dumped it out, and then proceeded to swirl and aerate this in the glass for about 5 minutes while I gave it a few sniffs here and there.  Sweet creamy vanilla nose, with hints of jammy red fruits.  Raspberry, currants, black cherry, and blackberry dominate the nose, but there is a bit of alcohol on the nose as well.  Obviously, this wine is young and will continue to integrate with time.  Secondary nuances of cedar, mocha, and spice round out the nose.

On the palate, this definitely is definitely young, and definitely tight.  This wine could easily use 4-6 hours in a decanter.  Even so, I didn’t have the time, so it is what it is.  Nice blackberry and currants on the palate, with that creamy sweet vanilla from the oak that sort of dominates at this point.  Again, air will help this mellow out, and I will be curious to see how this is tomorrow.  Definitely a new world fruit forward cab, and there is nothing wrong with that at all.  The fruit is ripe, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is over extracted.  The finish has some alcohol and tannins, again suggesting that this needs tome sideways time in the cellar, or at a minimum a few hours of air. 

Day 2:  I put a vacuum on the bottle over night and put it in the refrigerator, just so I could taste this on day 2.  Today the nose was showing much of the same as it warmed up in my glass.  On the palate, the wine seemed to lose quite a bit of structure, so it might be possible that the vacuum was bad.  Even so however, the alcohol has settled out, and the creamy sweetness has settled out some as well.  The flavors are nice, and the tannins are chewy, but it is just missing something.  All in all, I’d rate this wine around 84-85 points, and it makes for a decent QPR.

The funniest thing about this wine is the fact that it is getting a lot of buzz on Wine Berserkers right now.  Check out the thread at:  I had no idea we even had this wine until I was going through the 6 cases or so in the corner of our cellar, where we have boxes of wines that need to be entered into CellarTracker.  A lot of these wines are cheap ’07 Napa cabs that we have bought based on the vintage.  Unfortunately with these, there wasn’t a receipt in the box, so I have no idea where they came from.  In all honesty, I have no idea if I picked these up, or if Zelda picked these up.

At the end of the day, this makes for a decent QPR, and I am sure we’ll be opening plenty more of these in time.  Even so, I will decant the next one for a good 4 hours before we plan on drinking it!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Blackbird - Collingswood, NJ

Well, unfortunately it is a work weekend for me, so that means no late nights, and also means limiting the wine sipping to a bottle or so tonight!  ;-)
That said, we took a drive over to Collingswood tonight, thinking that we wouldn’t be able to get into Blackbird, and assuming that we would be dining at West Side Gravy instead.  We pulled up however around 7:15PM, and were pleasantly surprised to see a few open tables.  I am not complaining in the least, and this worked out good for us. 
We were greeted by the hostess and immediately seated at the first two top you see when you enter the restaurant.  There is a wooden partition behind the seat on the right that actually blocks off this table from the host stand so you do not feel that you are out in the open.
Adam came over and greeted us, letting us know that he was going to be our server tonight.  We have actually had Adam as a server a few times, and his service is always good.  Meanwhile, I grabbed our Riedel glasses from the carrying case, and popped and poured a 2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen Vineyard.  Feel free to read the review for this gorgeous wine below.
Adam came back and read off the specials.  There were quite a few fresh pasta specials tonight, and they all sounded magnificent.  But before we got there, we ordered the chilled antipasto appetizer.  This came out a few minutes later, and was a nice plate with fresh, locally grown, think sliced tomato, with a few large pieces of prosciutto laid out next to it.  Next to that was some thinly sliced cheese, along with some fresh roasted red peppers that had a few balls of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Next to that was some marinated artichoke, and in the center were some nice olives.  The flavors here were great, and there really isn’t much else to say about this dish.  It was delicious.
Next, Adam came to our table and said that the Chef would like to send out some salads, and we said, “Sure, why not!”  A few minutes later, a gorgeous romaine salad came out, and this was dressed with a lemon parmesan dressing that had some serious zing to it.  We are usually not big citrus fans, but this was a pleasure.  There was the perfect amount of dressing on the crisp lettuce, and this was topped by a gorgeous, baked cheese “cracker.”  The so called “cracker” is just shaved cheese (I am assuming parm) that is baked, and served on top of the salad.  Very nice with some fresh ground pepper, and a heck of a great salad.

For entrees tonight, Zelda ordered the homemade in house linguine served with wild mushrooms, porcini sauce, and finished with truffle oil.  This was then lightly sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  What is there to say other than who doesn’t love fresh pasta?  I absolutely love it, and even love to make it.  Unfortunately, we don’t make fresh pasta at home nearly enough, but this rocked!  The portion was huge, and this made for a great lunch for me on Saturday.  I don’t think Zelda ate even half of this dish.
I am the first person to admit that I am not a huge fan of mushrooms, but these were gorgeous, thinly sliced, and browned very nicely!  The truffle oil finished this dish off nicely, and again, who doesn’t like a little truffle flavor?  This was a winner, and every bit as good as Chef Capasso’s signature gnocchi, with the red sauce that we absolutely love.  I really wanted to order that as an app, but it would have been way too much pasta.
For my entrée tonight, I ordered the homemade 3 cheese ravioli with the parmesan cream sauce.  I did however do a little modification to this, and ordered it with the fresh lump crab meat that was featured on one of the other pasta specials.  This came out as 4 large ravioli smothered in a gorgeous cream sauce and topped with jumbo lump crab meat.  In all honesty, I didn’t think this looked like a large portion, but I then figured it would leave room for dessert!  =)
First bite revealed some great flavors.  Again, fresh pasta is always a winner in my book, and this was no exception.  The 3 cheese filling had great texture, and the parmesan cream sauce paired perfectly.  The jumbo lump crab was sweet and succulent, and the entire dish was very rich.  By the time I finished the second ravioli, the richness of this dish was setting in, and I was getting very full.  After my 3rd ravioli, I was ready to wave the white flag, but then Zelda wanted a bite, so this one had to go as well.  She took another bite or two, and at this point, we were both stuffed.  Regardless, I muscled through, and couldn’t have been any happier.
Adam came back a few minutes later and offered us dessert, but we were both too stuffed, so we shot the bull for a few minutes.  One of their other servers, Amy also came over and said hello and chatted with us for a few minutes.  After that, we got our check, and headed out.  Surprisingly, there was no sign of Chef Capasso tonight, and I am guessing that he either took a well deserved night off, or perhaps he was working up the street at West Side Gravy tonight.  Regardless, you would never know he wasn’t there, and everything was wonderful like always!  The restaurant probably had 10-12 tables or so while we were there, and it things were moving along nicely and at a good pace! 
In short, another great meal, and great service from the Blackbird gang, and hopefully we’ll get back there sometime around the first of the year!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Friday, November 19, 2010

2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen Vineyard

Grabbed from the Avanti, thrown in the Riedel carrying case along with two glasses, and popped and poured at Blackbird in Collingswood, NJ.  I always forget that Blackbird has good stems, and we really didn’t even need to bring our own, but I forgot.  This has always been one of my favorite Kosta Browne’s, especially this vineyard designate from the 2005 vintage!

Gorgeous ruby color in the glass, and that creamy Kosta Browne nose that I love.  Bright red fruits dominate the plate with some black cherry and strawberry, with nice hints of cola and sweet spice!  On the backside of the nose however, there is still quite a bit of heat there, and I think this just needs a decent decant as it seems to settle out the longer the bottle is open.  Just a bit of blueberry rounds out the backside of the palate as well.

On the palate, this fits the bill tonight.  I was looking for a big bold pinot noir with flavor.  I wasn’t looking for classic Burgundy tonight, I wanted an in your face, high octane wine that filled my mouth, and this was it!  More cherry and cola on the palate, with a very nice creaminess to it.  As high octane and fruit forward as this wine is, I really do not feel that it was terribly over-extracted in the least.

The finish however shows a bit of heat, and this makes me think that this wine just might need some more time.  Yes, I know all about the 2006 vintage, and know that this wasn’t a great vintage in the least, but I still think that this wine will improve.

All in all, another pleasure from Kosta Browne, but again, the ‘06’s aren’t getting the praise that the 04’s and ‘05’s got….from me at least.  Still have 2 more of these in the cellar, and we’ll give it another 18 months before we pop another one.  Still a delicious wine, and the heat just needs to settle out a bit so the alcohol can integrate.  92 points!  Cheers!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Houseki Asian Fusion - Hamilton, NJ

How many times do you go out on a Thursday night and have a 10 course dinner? Well, for us, my answer is never, and this was a first! But we had an absolutely amazing dinner tonight at Houseki Asian Fusion in Hamilton. The new owner/host Patrick did a great job introducing us to his new restaurant, and our server Patrick was awesome! What a night! We will be back soon for certain!

I will try to get this entry completed tomorrow, but for a step by step, course by course break down, check out our Facebook pictures at:   These pictures are public, and you do not need a Facebook account to view these.

Well, tonight was originally going to be a Delorenzos Tomato Pie night in Robbinsville, but then we both got a craving for Asian, and figured we’d hit the original Delorenzos on Hudson Street in Trenton on Saturday.  So instead, we hit Houseki Fusion in Hamilton, after visiting them last Monday for their grand opening.

Tonight we walked in to a pretty slow restaurant, but for a Thursday night, and early in the evening, that is not surprising.  The place ended up filling up some by the time we left, with customers at the sushi bar, as well as at the hibachi tables, and at the other tables.

We sat at a table along the right hand side of the restaurant, and the new owner came over to say hello.  We had met him previously at the grand opening, and he asked if he could show of his chef’s talent a little bit and do a tasting menu for us, of which we agreed to.  One of his biggest things that he changed from the old restaurant is that he has added more Chinese and Japanese dishes, as well as a few Thai dishes.  He is very proud of his chefs talents, and for good reason!

First course out was our own choice, and this was the harumaki, which are vegetable spring rolls.  As usual, these are stuffed with fresh vegetables, and fried to a gorgeous golden brown color and served with a sweet and sour/duck sauce.  I love spring rolls, and what is there to say other than awesome?  These are always good, and like I have said before, you could stuff these with anything and I would probably enjoy them.

Next out was the pizza.  Now this is an awesome concept, and something that I really enjoyed.  The crust was firm like a homemade tortilla that you would have at a Mexican restaurant and fried, and it even tasted like a corn chip a little bit.  It was then layered with a thinly sliced tuna, topped with a seaweed salad, and a creamy sauce that was to act like the cheese.  This is a great concept, and the flavors here were delicious.  I really like the crunch from the “crust,” and all of these elements just melded together nicely.  This was also topped with some roe (fish eggs).

Next out was the rock shrimp tempura, and again, breaded and fried anything make for a winner in my book!  Well, not really, but I do like some fried stuff on occasion!  Who doesn’t?  These were pieces of shrimp cut into bite sized morsels, then breaded in a light and fluffy tempura batter and fried to perfection.  These were cooked absolutely perfectly, and had amazing flavor.

What I really liked here was the presentation.  These was served in a martini glass, but inside the martini glass was a clear blocked that was about the size of a large ice cube.  Inside this block was a color changing light that added dramatic effect.  This was then covered in rice noodle to help camouflage it so it could not be seen.  Sure, this is a bit over the top, but I dig it!

Next out was the Houseki Christmas salad, and I don’t think that this appears on the menu.  This is a salad of romaine lettuce and mixed greens, tossed with a sweet ginger dressing, and topped with thinly sliced peppered ahi tuna!  A don’t know that it is possible for a salad to get any better than this.  On top there was a small mound of Panko bread crumbs which added a very nice crunch, and on top of that was some good salmon (I think) roe.  This is the king of Asian salads in my opinion, and absolutely delicious!  The flavors of the peppered tuna were incredible, and this was another dish that had so many flavors that worked well together.  This was served in a giant glass bowl shaped like a martini glass, and again had the lighted cube in the bottom for presentation purposes.  All in all, this was a solid dish and a heck of a great starter!

Next out was a staple, and one of Zelda’s favorites, the General Tso chicken served with white rice.  This is a good as anywhere, which large chicken pieces cooked to a nice crisp, then rolled in their house made General Tso sauce, served with  broccoli.  This is a classic dish, and as good as anywhere.  The flavors were nice, and the chicken and broccoli were cooked very nicely.  I could eat this every time I come here, as this is one of my favorite comfort foods.

From here came what I would consider the piese de resitance!  First out was a gorgeous martini glass filled with a plethora of thinly sliced Kobe beef.  The marbling on this beef is gave me no doubt in my mind that this was high grade Kobe, and my mouth was watering.  I had actually had this as an old appetizer back when this restaurant used to be Fusion 2, but back then, they would just hit it with the torch for a few seconds to give it a little char on the outside.  This is no longer how this is served.

To accompany my martini glass loaded with Kobe was a fire pot of sorts, topped with a metal mesh grill plate, where you actually cook the Kobe tableside.  This is what I am talking about, and this is awesome!  The beauty of this is that you get to cook it yourself, to whatever temperature you want.  I used to love this next to raw at the old restaurant, so I gave these maybe 15 seconds of char if that per side.  Upon first bite I was in absolute heaven.  Not only are these grill pots tasty, they are also seasoned with great flavors.  I really didn’t look all that closely, but I am assuming there was a Sterno or something similar inside the pot.  Regardless, there were no chemical or gassy flavors whatsoever.

The beef came off the grill very tender, and the flavors were amazing. The fatty marble does create a just a bit of grease, but this is not bad grease by any means.  This is flavorful and delicious.  This was also served with a sauce of sorts, but in all honestly, it didn’t need it, and I can’t even remember what the sauce was.  It was a brown sauce, probably soy based, but in the two bites I tried, I would have rather have tasted just the Kobe so I did not use it.  In short, this is as good as it gets, and this was heaven on a plate for me!  WOW, what a dish!

From here we were brought a chicken curry dish that comes from the new Thai portion of the menu.  We love curries, and this did not disappoint in the least.  This was served with a sort of homemade bread, that was almost like an airy flower tortilla.  This was puffed up and filled with air, and very soft, hot, and chewy.  The flavors of this alone were hot, and it really would make a nice flour tortilla.  The curry sauce was seasoned nicely and flavorful, and in the sauce were some potatoes, as well as some nicely cooked chicken.  If you are into curries, this was very delicious, and I would order this again in a heartbeat!

By this point, were we both stuffed, and it would really be hard to eat another bite, but in all reality, the new owner, whose name is Patrick we have come to find, is nowhere near finished sending us food.  Ugh, I cannot eat anymore!  But thus far, everything has been wonderful, and they really are doing a great job in the kitchen.  But next out was a whole Peking Duck.  Oh my goodness, at this point I am accepting of the fact that I am going to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.   As you know, we had our semi-annual wine tasting at the Peking Duck House in Manhattan not even a week ago, but I so love my Peking Duck!

The duck looked gorgeous with a great color on the crispy skin!  At this point, one of his employees came out to slice it tableside, and he had it down to a science.  First he scored the bird with his razor sharp nice, and then he sliced it into bit sized pieces and placed it on a plate.  Out next was some homemade bread to serve this over, along with sliced cucumber, scallion, and homemade duck sauce.  You almost make this into something sandwich like, where at Peking Duck House, it is more burrito like.  Regardless, this was the best Peking Duck I have had hands down in New Jersey.  Never has anywhere in this area served Peking Duck as good as this!

The flavors on and seasoning on the skin were spot on, and the skin hard that crispy texture that I absolutely love!  On to the meat, it was cooked perfectly, and very tender.  It was not greasy in the least for duck, and I could not have been any happier with this.  All in all, this was an absolute A+, and the excitement factor I had from this rivaled that of the Kobe beef!

So by this point, I figured we were done.  Oh no, not the case at all, and next out was the grilled trio called the Triple Delight.  This was fresh scallops, shrimp, and sea bass, cooked nicely and served with a  house special sauce and asparagus.  The flavors of the fresh seafood were awesome!  The scallops were tender and not rubbery in the least.  The shrimp were also cooked perfectly and not tough in the least, and the sea bass was awesome.  I don’t know how anything could still taste good to me at this point as I am so full, but somehow, everything continued to wow me!  This was also served with asparagus spears, and then topped with the creamy sauce.  What is there to say other than delicious?  I would definitely order this off of the menu!

So at this point we are once again ready for the check, but oh no, we’re not done yet.  Final item out was a dessert.  If you know me well, you know my love for Banana’s Foster!  But this is Banana’s Foster on steroids!  Just when you thought that this couldn’t get any better, someone comes up with the bright idea to roll this in rice paper that is used to make spring rolls, then deep fried, and garnished with vanilla ice cream!  WOW!  Another winner, and another crowd pleaser, and believe it or not, we both finished it.

By this point however, we are both stuffed, and looking to open up some chambers in our stomachs, but thankfully, the food has all been served, and there will be no more dishes coming out!  Thank God!

At the end of the day, I am scared to see the check for this dinner, but regardless of what it was, it was worth every penny!  The service from our waiter Keith was second to none, and the care taken from the new owner was very nice.  Unfortunately, some of these items are not yet on the menu, so If you go, you have to be patient.  Some of the items might be feature now as specials which will be nice.  Even so, we were very pleased that he took the time with his chef to create some of these dishes for us!

When all was said and done, we were leaving with a bag of leftovers worthy of another entire meal, and sure enough, this smorgasbord was shared with many others for lunch the following day.  Even reheated, this was crowd pleasing to the 6 others who this was shared with, and I know that Houseki now has some new fans!  I am sure we will be back next week!  Great job to Houseki, and we look forward to frequenting this restaurant for our Asian cravings from here on out!  Cheers!  -F. Scott